Turns out, I’ve been ordering cashew chicken all wrong. I’ve been doing so since my picky teens, when I was the opposite of an adventurous eater at Chinese and Thai restaurants. Probably for that reason, it almost feels boring when I ask for the simple stir fry now, though I know intellectually it shouldn’t. Cashews are awesome.
2789 Adams Ave, University Heights
But what’s more awesome is eating the cashew stir fry at Chi Extraordinary Kitchen, except with crispy fried sole fillet rather than chicken. I spotted the option a few weeks ago and, because I’d never knowingly eaten sole in a Thai dish before, ordering it felt simultaneously familiar, and like I was expanding my horizons.
I haven’t stopped craving it since. I could call it my new favorite dish in San Diego, but it’s really more of an addiction. When I’m not eating it, I’m scheduling times I might sneak away to eat it. The words, “cashew sole,” aren’t likely to generate clicks on a trend-obsessed internet, but this dish has me lark raving happy, and I highly recommend it.
Chi shares an owner with Plumeria Vegetarian Restaurant, another really great Thai spot nearby on Park Boulevard. When I first tried Plumeria, I recall wondering, I wonder how good this stuff would be if the restaurant cooked with meat? Chi Extraordinary Kitchen is the answer to that question.
It’s probably best to point out the actual cashew chicken here is no slouch. The restaurant says it uses jidori chicken, the free range Japanese chicken raised clean enough it may be eaten raw. Chi cooks it well, and I’ve enjoyed it both in in their from-scratch Thai curries and rice noodle dishes.
But since I liked the fried sole so much, I decided to try the other sole option — steamed sole — in the garlic pepper stir fry. While the entrée is heavier on the garlic than I tend to prefer, it tasted fresh right down to the bright green steamed broccoli to go with the incredibly tender steamed filets of fish. The bulk of the menu seems to taste healthy and fresh thanks to terrific ingredients, including pad se ew, pad thai, an array of fish from whole pampano to salmon.
But it’s the fried sole, stir fried bell peppers, cashews, carrots, and celery I keep going back for. The crispy batter on the fried fish adds savory punch cashew chicken has been missing my whole life. It may be for the best I never had a dish like this as a teen: I might have been satisfied enough to order it forever, and then I never would have tried larb.